Research Assignment Ideas
Tips for creating successful research assignments
Be specific about your expectations.
- Specify what type of resources students should be using (popular or scholarly, primary or secondary).
- Be clear where students should do their research (library resources, original research, websites).
- Designate the number of resources students should consult (and what types).
Follow student process and progress.
- Assign projects early in the semester to allow ample research time.
- Help students adjust the project to make it more searchable (i.e. broaden it, narrow it, shift the focus).
- Make the bibliography one of the first assignments to review sources early.
- Have students create a research log to track their progress and describe their investigation
- Talk about appropriate information sources in class (i.e. why not to cite Wikipedia as a source).
Examples of Research Assignments
Starting the Research Process
Using library resources, choose two credible types of information (articles, websites, encyclopedia entries, books, etc.) that will be useful to you in answering questions about your topic. Explain why you chose them. Then, write a one-page summary of these two articles and why they will be helpful in your research. Be sure to use proper in-text citation and create a compete citation at the end.
Finding Sources and Completing Citations
Identify several library resources (article, eBook, book in the library catalog) and provide students with a partial citation for each. Students then must locate the sources on the library website to gather the rest of the information in order to complete the citation. This assignment helps them practice finding sources through the library, as well as citation practice.
Primary Sources vs. Secondary Sources
Locate two resources on a topic of your choice. One must be a primary source; one must be a secondary source. Then, describe the documents including three things the author said that you think are important, why you think the document was written, and what evidence in the document helps you know why it was written. In a few sentences, describe the main differences between these two sources, and why each is useful when researching this topic.
Follow That Lead!
Locate a news article on your topic using either a local newspaper or an online news source. In a few sentences, describe the major theme of the article, including important keywords and phrases. Use those keywords and phrases to research the story in one of the Hartness Library news databases, such as NewsBank, LexisNexis Academic or the Custom Newspapers collection.
Popular vs. Peer-Reviewed Articles
Find an article from a newspaper or popular magazine, such as Newsweek, Time, or People. Then locate a peer-reviewed article on that topic from Hartness Library’s Academic OneFile database. Describe the difference between popular and peer-reviewed articles.
Opinion vs. Fact
Review one pro/con argument on your topic using the Opposing Viewpoints database at the Hartness Library. How does a viewpoint article compare to an academic journal article? A primary source?
Provide students with a popular or magazine article which refers to original research in an academic journal article - contact a librarian for assistance locating examples of such articles. Have students locate the original research findings on which this article is based. Describe the difference between the popular article and the original research. How accurate is the popular article? Does it summarize the research correctly or is it biased?
Create a research log! Document where you found information for your assignment, describe the resources you find (content, author, scope, date of publication) and why you chose to include them. Plan to share your research log in class.
Use the Hartness Library’s historical New York Times database to research your topic. Find one article on your topic from a current New York Times article (2005-2010) and one from the past. How do they differ? What is the earliest date for a New York Times article on your topic? Why?
Author and Book Review
After reading [book title], look up more information about the author in the Hartness Library’s Literary Reference Center and Biography in Context databases. Using the biographical information, summarize the major events in the author’s life; then review the literary criticism and reviews to provide an overview of their major works. Which work is seen to be their “best” or most recognized? Why?
What Do You Conclude?
Prepare an annotated bibliography of research done on one [psychology, biomedical, microbiology etc.] topic of your choice. Find up to [define number] research articles, cite them using the APA format, and annotate each article individually. Finally provide a summary of what you conclude from these articles. (Provide students with samples of annotated bibliographies and APA format resources, many of which can be found on the library website under Guides & Help.)
So You Think You Can Google?
Google provides lesson plans and advanced searching videos to help educators encourage better searching and help students gain information literacy skills. Use any of the tools on Google's Search Education website to infuse your existing lessons with assignment ideas, expert search strategies, and effective website evaluation.
Get Customized Assignments
Contact your academic program liaison librarian to discuss customized assignment ideas which specifically work with your course syllabus. We're happy to help you brainstorm ways to increase student success with research using Hartness Library resources, Web-based resources, various forms of media, or any material you use for class.